British breaks don’t get any more exceptionally English than Bluebell House. Beneath the rolling Chilterns close by Henley-on-Thames’ regatta and riverside restaurants, it welcomes 18 family, friends and the odd pooch. Roam the box-hedged acres, dip into the heated pool and slide into the bubbling hot tub as the moonlight hits the terrace.
This is where you socialise in style. Did we say pool? Oh yes. It’s sitting out there in the summer sunshine, plying its splashtastic trade from April to September. Dive in, dry off and head to the tennis court for a five-set thriller. Kids can stay out there for the football goals and Wendy house while you chargrill supper on the barbie.
Inside the main house and annexe, it’s all boudoir-beautiful. A freestanding bath here, a garden-view balcony there, beautiful bathrooms everywhere. Raid the well-stocked bar, dress for dinner in the walk-in wardrobe, turn the place into a restaurant with our expert cooks. This is the good life – but do remember it’s someone else’s turn next week.
Welcome to a piece of England, firmly in England. These are the kind of landscaped acres that host summer garden parties, pristine-white marquees and champagne receptions. You can enjoy your own celebration here, jumping into the heated pool in summer, bubbling in the four-seater hot tub and trading topspin on the tennis court.
There’s room for eight to eat al-fresco out on the two-acre lawn, plus a couple of kids kicking a ball through the goalposts, swarming over the climbing frame and playing with the Wendy house. Get your steaks and sausages for the coal barbecue from Henley Marketplace and your wine from Majestic.
Plenty of sociable spaces here and plenty more for when your social battery needs a recharge. Hang out together in the open-plan kitchen, the suntrap orangery and the large entertaining room. Or make it a movie night in the cinema room with its giant screen, beanbags and comfy sofas. Don’t forget your passwords.
Everything here is sumptuously special, with homely rugs, throws and foot stools sitting in front of logburners designed to revive feet fatigued from a Chiltern yomp or just coffee and cake in nearby Hambleden. Load your snaps to Instagram on the Wi-Fi, top up your glass and lean into the good life.
With two ovens in the main house and one in the annexe, you won’t be short of meal-prep options. You can add to that two fridge-freezers and a dishwasher. But if you don’t fancy slaving over the hot stoves, call in the pros. Sojo Kitchen uses locally sourced produce for anything from a one-off celebration to a fully catered break.
You’ll get ten around the dining table and eight around the table on the terrace. Head out there to cook on the coal barbecue, while the kids explore the climbing frame and Wendy house. Tuck into takeaways from Zizzi for Italian, Giggling Squid for Thai and Pizza Express for anything from iconic dough balls to thin and crispy Romanas.
Head out to The Frog at Skirtmet for a lively atmosphere and pan-roast lamb rump, honey- and orange-glazed roast duck breast, or mac and cheese croquet. Try The Bull and Butcher for 16th-century beams, open fires and crispy pork belly, Thai shellfish and noodle broth or Mediterranean tart.
Fine-dine your way through an evening at The Yew Tree in Frieth. Will it be poulet bourguignon with confit potato, parsnip and pecorino risotto, or slow-cooked lamb shoulder pie with a suet topping? Choose The Chequers Inn for good, honest food and well-kept beer. Or The Golden Ball for cod, pearl barley or muntjac.
At the foot of the Chilterns with two acres of landscaped garden around you, sound sleep is a given. Bluebell House sleeps up to 18 across the main house and annexe in seven beautiful bedrooms.
Bedroom one is a ground-floor double while bedroom two is a twin on the first floor. Still on the first floor, bedroom three is a double and bedroom four a kingsize with an en-suite and standalone bath in the room to drape a lazy leg over. Bedroom five offers a kingsize en-suite. The annexe provides two luxurious doubles and a family bathroom.
For the extra 4 guests, a double z-bed and two singles can be added to the larger bedrooms.